Marvel continues its string of well-crafted films with CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. Though at times the pacing seemed a bit like a herky-jerky rollercoaster, and storyline elements had me start to roll my eyes, they succeeded in the two main areas which were most important:

1 – They made me appreciate the Captain America character through building an excellent backstory

2 – They continued to increase my interest in the future AVENGERS projects

When IRON MAN was released a few years ago, Marvel took a very rich character and showed me why I should be interested in him by crafting an excellent superhero flick which showed how multi-faceted the character was, and it made me wish I would’ve known more about the character before seeing it. I had been fully aware of comic books for the better part of two decades before watching it, and never before that film did I have an interest in Iron Man or Tony Stark. From that point, my perspective on Marvel characters whom I previously considered to be of secondary importance (because they weren’t Spider-Man or part of the X-Men) had changed for good.

Captain America benefited the most from that change in mindset.

I had always been aware that Captain America existed, and that he was considered to be fairly important in the Marvel Universe, but I never really understood the appeal. He didn’t have any super powers, and his main weapon was a shield, which I had always considered to be an implement solely for defensive purposes. There was some mention of the Super Soldier Serum, and an affiliation with some “Avengers” group, but none of that got me on board.

When THE FIRST AVENGER was announced, and its affiliation to a much larger AVENGERS initiative reported, I kept an eye out for news pertaining to the project. Admittedly I was a bit disappointed when I heard that Chris Evans had been cast in the lead role, partially because he was already part of the FANTASTIC FOUR (portraying HUMAN TORCH). Knowing that Evans would portray Cap’ for the better part of the next decade and that Fantastic Four would likely get a reboot anyway, I set aside that bias. I decided that the actor, who traditionally portrays characters abounding with charisma and over-flowingly cocky, was Marvel’s pick for the character, and I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.

I’m willing to admit that Chris Evans surprised me with his acting, and I’m glad I went into the film with an open mind.

For the first part of the film, he portrays a character which is basically the polar opposite of what I’ve typically seen from him. Through movie magic, Steve Rogers (the man who becomes Captain America) is a scrawny guy who looks to be roughly 5 foot tall and weighs about 100 pounds. They give him asthma, a heart of gold, fierce determination to join the Army to fight in World War II, but they also give him little self confidence.

Hayley Atwell is Peggy Carter

Hayley Atwell is Peggy Carter

Despite what some reviewers of this film might say, the build-up of affections between Rogers and a government agent named Peggy Carter does feel natural. Through seeing how other people view him and getting to know the man inside the diminutive frame, it’s easy to understand how Peggy warms to Rogers even before he is unnaturally bulked up. Even without the fine acting on display, it’s not tough to understand why any man might become enamored of the lovely actress portraying Peggy, a British brunette named Hayley Atwell.

The main villain was portrayed by Hugo Weaving, whom you might remember from his role as Mr Smith in the Matrix films. As with any great villain, you really get a sense that the character has strong convictions and is unflinching in doing what is necessary to achieve their end result.

Tommy Lee Jones has a significant role in this film, and at this point in his career, I feel like this is the perfect role for him. He seemed very natural and commanded the appropriate respect when he was on screen, though he didn’t over-shadow anyone despite always being the most well-known and accomplished actor in any scene.

Another high point of this movie was the portrayal of Howard Stark (father of “Iron Man” Tony Stark) by Dominic Cooper. Initially I was disappointed that John Slattery wasn’t cast in the role, as he was used in archive footage from IRON MAN 2. I knew Cooper to be a talented actor, having seen him in AN EDUCATION, so I wasn’t too worried. As the movie progressed, I was glad they choose Cooper and had him portray the character the way he did. So far as the timeline is setup, it makes sense for Howard Stark to be Cooper’s age, and as I listened to the way Cooper delivered his lines, it felt like a young John Slattery was on screen.

I saw the movie in 2D, and from what I’m hearing, that’s what I would advise you to do as well. Apparently the movie was filmed for 2D and the 3D rendering was done in post-production, which apparently is headache-inducing. Also to take into consideration is that the regular version of the film is PG-13, whereas the 3D version is PG, meaning they cut content.

All in all it was a really enjoyable film. I wouldn’t classify it up in the stratosphere with IRON MAN, X-Men or X-Men 2 or either of the first two Spider-Man films. It was far better than Daredevil, Wolverine, Punisher: War Games and either of the Incredible Hulk films. I can’t compare it to THOR or Green Lantern, as I haven’t seen either film, but I will say that it’s on par with (or better than) X-Men 3, IRON MAN 2, Spider-Man 3, the Thomas Jane PUNISHER flick… and possibly X-Men: First Class.

There were two bonuses to seeing the film:

1 – the trailer for Amazing Spider-Man was shown before the film

2 – after a brief scene post-credits, they showed a trailer for next summer’s AVENGERS movie

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